The Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, together with their key advisory group N.A.T.S.I.C.C., look to the celebration of National Sorry Day and the National Week of Reconciliation as an opportunity for all Australians to commit themselves to human rights and the key principles that will ensure justice for the indigenous people of Australia.
Since the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation presented its Final Report in 2000, little progress has been made towards meaningful national reconciliation. Despite the good will of thousands of Australians who have taken part in the bridge walks and despite the huge numbers who have supported the ‘Sea of Hands’ exhibition nation-wide, still the Roadmap for Reconciliation has largely gone unheeded and seldom traveled by policy-makers. Government concern to follow the path of ‘practical reconciliation’ is admirable but in itself it is inadequate to address “the practical, cultural and spiritual dimensions of reconciliation”.
This country is in need of leadership, which will restore impetus and energy to deal with the unfinished business of reconciliation in our land, in our time. Recognizing the wrongs of the past must necessarily lead us as a nation to express our sorrow and make amends for the injustices that have been done in the name of settlement and colonization.
The generous heart to help overcome disadvantages presently suffered by the First Peoples of Australia is a responsibility that weighs heavily on all Australians. To make right of those things that are wrong is not merely an act of charity to which we can passively accede but rather it is an act of justice in which we are duty bound.
Enabling Aboriginal and Islander people to continue the journey of self-determination is foundational to an authentic future for the First Peoples of Australia. Supporting them in their aspirations is seminal to the restoration of human rights so commonly denied them in the past.
It is our hope that during the forthcoming days of special commemoration all Australians will examine their attitude to the vital question of national reconciliation. Thereafter let us be enthusiastically determined to follow that road of building our future together.
Released by the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference